It’s been one week since I drove myself home with the vision in my left eye rapidly decreasing as a swath of oval glittering zentangle took over instead. How quickly my body remembered this old ritual. The growing ink blot seeping through my vision, eventually leading into phase two, the pulsating stabbing sensation felt in the opposite hemisphere of my brain – which is actually the side that controls the left eye. So makes sense. At the time though, nothing else was making any fucking sense what so ever. I was frantic as I was forced to make other arrangements to accommodate this unannounced visitor. I was surrendering but at the very same instant, I was resistant making the process that much more challenging.
That last sentence pretty much sums up life at this moment on my timeline.
It’s weird when I know I have so much to write (writing being a healthy way for me to process difficult events) but yet don’t know what it is I should write or am, rather, willing to write.
After 18 months migraine-free, I will use my migraine reset as a reference point.
The previous 5 days I had been considering a small return to teaching. I know for some you’ll be like, “A-ha! Well there it is, your trigger.” But I was in such a different place considering all my options and words of advice I had sought from other friends who were trusted colleagues who possessed a particular insight I was in need of. Many warned me still, that yes, the work would be different than what I was accustomed to as a classroom teacher, perhaps less taxing on the body, but the time consuming nature of the position was not for the faint of heart. I weighed it all, measuring my bodily responses carefully and felt ready to try it on for just one day a week. Promising myself that if at any point it didn’t feel right, I would have the courage to step away, not willing to sacrifice my health and hard work to heal over the past 2 years.
That was Tuesday morning.
However, I didn’t realize that I was in a state of shock.
Monday afternoon my husband had a follow up appointment with his GP. He had been quite proactive after connecting with his paternal family through fortuitous events, thanks to Ancestry DNA. In this unfolding he had learned about a history of heart disease, coupled with some similar history on his maternal side and being 40, so he asked for some testing to be done. The results found a leaky valve that would need further testing by specialists in Vancouver. This news wasn’t great by any stretch, but we were grateful that the testing allowed us to be proactive. Further testing would either provide regular monitoring of the issue or would lead to a surgical solution. We were okay with this. We had our feet firmly planted under us and prepared to do what was necessary to manage the situation as it came.
And then, as we ate dinner together as a family Monday night, the phone rang. It was my Dad. What he said knocked me off my feet as if I had stepped onto an invisible patch of black ice, when I didn’t even know I was walking. The wind knocked out of me while I listened in utter confusion and disbelief.
Only an hour before, my fifteen-year-old cousin, had tragically passed away.
As my brain began to take in the information in an attempt to reconcile this unexpected loss of human life; a member of our family, a young, beautiful, creative soul, the daughter of my Mother’s youngest brother, my Grandmother’s youngest granddaughter, the familiar sharp pain of grief crept across my neck and chest taking grasp, clutching in such a way that it’s fingers found their previous impressions from my Father’s death months earlier. It felt so firmly constricted that I wondered if it would be able to let go this time, or instead fuse itself into the grooves of last year’s grief.
The family mobilized during this time. Communication opened up, rather than becoming congested and stifled. Sisters, brothers, cousins and friends came to support my Uncle and Aunt and for this I am eternally grateful, being a province away. I too used the phone to reach out to family and listen and ask what I could do. But still I felt so helpless. I measured my shock and grief in relation to the parent’s who had actually lost their child and rationalized that I needed to pull myself together and manage my emotions, dammit.
So I went to the board office the next morning, kind of floating in that detached way that use to be my constant normal and said “Yes” to the job. I continued to communicate with family members as the day-after progressed. I compartmentalized my husband’s health concerns in a little box over there somewhere to get through it all. Whatever it was.
But I was in denial, believing these significant life events could be separated and categorized neatly. Something in me, the dam I had been fortifying with self-care and compassionate observation, with less anger and judgement and more love and gratitude, had suffered some structural compromise, there was a crack and it was threatening to completely give way, again.
By Tuesday midday, the facade I was already beginning to try on, yet again, became too much and the dam appeared to have sprung a leak…but it did not completely crumble. I was so resistant to believe that a cliched migraine could possibly have meaning in all of this but whether I like it or not…and I don’t, there is something there that begs my attention.
As I pulled myself out of a 30 hour migraine attack, I surveyed the damage and decided to surrender to my body’s intuitive security system that had not pulled the fire alarm as some prank but to ask me to stop and prioritize.
- My health
- My family
- My grief
The list goes on but I know the top 3 are what require the focus to be. Be present. Be okay. Be vulnerable.
All of this, reminding me of the promise I had made myself about trying the new job…if at any point it didn’t feel right, I would have the courage to step away, not willing to sacrifice my health and hard work to heal over the past 2 years. I didn’t realize that making that promise meant I might not even step foot into the job before needing to make that crucial decision. But I did make the call. I declined the position, seeing as teaching was no where to be found in my top 3 priorities at this point in my life.
A friend who had noticed my on-going vacancy recently reached out to me asking if I was ok. I told her what I was grappling with and she responded in a way that helped me ease into the surrender of what is. She acknowledged that I am receiving “trauma from both sides of my gene pool” but shared the comforting belief, “…that I am being watched over by angels and of whom much is asked, much is also given.” This moves me deeply and so I choose to adopt this mindset in the hopes of healing for not only myself, but all of my family.
Another dear friend also suggested that taking on a teaching job right now could be a “good thing to invest some energy in…to give a reprieve from some of this heaviness.” I appreciated her line of thought as I too had considered this, but engaging with someone else to talk that concept through allowed me to find my secure footing with this response, “…as heavy as it is, I want to feel it. For decades I felt numb or empty. So experiencing emotion, even when it feels like my heart is being rung dry, is a gratitude.”
This lead us to discuss how this depth of emotional experience will not just be important to my own soul’s growth but may one day also help others.
I am okay with not knowing how or why right now. I am okay with this pain and sorrow. I am okay with the uncertainty. I am okay with the reset button being pushed because it had a purpose and served me well. I am okay with not being okay because this too shall pass in time. I am okay to share my experience and open up about this pain because I still trust that if my heart needs to write it, then there is someone that also needs to read it. We will be okay, okay?
In memory of my cousin, Rachel. All of life is dream walking, all of death is going home.